Jesus established this Sacrament not just on a Sunday, but on Easter Sunday night! He came to save us from eternal death – and on the day he rose from the dead he established the sacrament that remedies what causes eternal death, namely, unrepented and unforgiven sin.
When Jesus entered the Upper Room on Easter Sunday, the first thing he did was wish the Apostles “peace” the definitive peace between God and humanity that comes through the forgiveness of sins. Then Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). And we know that the Father sent Jesus as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. Finally he breathed on the Apostles the power of the Holy Spirit because only God can forgive sins – and said “Receieve the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). And since the Apostles didn’t receive from Jesus the ability to read everyone’s soul and heart the only way they would know which sins to forgive and which to pardon would be if people told them their sins. Those are the essential elements of the sacrament of penance.
Jesus clearly thought the Sacrament of Penance was important enough to establish it almost immediately when He rose from the dead. If the forgiveness of sins is so central to the mystery of our redemption, it’s unsurprising then that the devil does everything he can to persuade people not to go to confession. Some people are duped into believeing that they are as sinless as the Blessed Virgin Mary or that their failings are so minor that they don’t need to confessed and pardoned. Others know they are sinners but are convinced they can confess their sins “directly to God”. But if the Son of God established the Sacrament of Penance on Easter then He clearly wants us to take advantage of it for the salvation of our souls.
The Church asks that all Catholics go to confession at least once a year, but we should never treat the Church’s minimal requirement as the maximum. In fact, the Church has routinely recommended that we receive the Sacrament of Penance more frequently. Confession of less serious sins (venial sins) without being strictly necessary is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church” (CCC 1458). The Catechism stresses confession of venial sins because it presumes that if we have commited a mortal sin, we should go to confession immediately. But the unfortunate reality is that if someone is not going to confession regularly, he or she may wait for months to confess even mortal sins.
(Adapted from Father Roger J. Landry’s Plan of Life – Chapter 8 – Frequent Confession).
“The regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ, and progress in the life of the Spirit. By recieiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy we are spurred to be merciful as He is merciful.” (CCC 1458)
“In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the sacrament of Penance.”
St Thomas Aquinas